Eric Pickles restores a thousand years of British history
Now the indomitable Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, has taken things a step further. He has hoisted the flag representing the county of Middlesex above the offices of the Department for Communities and Local Government, to mark ‘Middlesex Day’.
Never heard of it?
No, neither had His Grace until about an hour ago. It commemorates the Battle of Albuera, in which the Middlesex Regiment fought valiantly for King and Country (or ‘the national interest’) precisely 200 years ago today. It is considered one of the bravest acts of chivalry and courage ever witnessed by a regiment of the British army when 'The Diehards' took on and held back the might of Napoleon in the Peninsula Wars.
But the flying of the Middlesex flag is only the beginning. Eric Pickles is sprightly (in spirit) and unflagging (in industry), and has ordered that henceforth all county standards will be displayed alongside the Union flag in order to celebrate the important place counties play in the nation's cultural heritage. They are to be flown for a week at a time in alphabetical order or – in cases such as Cornwall and Yorkshire – to coincide with particular county days.
Mr Pickles said: “England's counties continue to form an important part of our cultural and local identity in this country and many people remain deeply attached to their home county. This sense of pride and shared identity is one of the things that binds communities together. Middlesex retains its place in people's memories and affections, despite attempts to wipe it off the map. The historic English counties are one of the oldest forms of local government in Western Europe. Their roots run deep. And no amount of administrative reshuffling can delete these longstanding and cherished local identities."
Middlesex county campaigner and author of The Real Counties of Great Britain, Russell Grant said: "Middlesex was first founded in Saxon documentation in 704 AD in a geographical description of Twickenham as being in Middlesex. Since local government counties were only created in 1889, it is a pity that over a thousand years of local heritage and national history of our counties, such as Middlesex, is lost because of a lack of a short-lived County Council. Of course, the County of Middlesex – an entirely separate and different entity – continues to exist as it has done for 1300 years, but the lack of understanding of modern media and by-passing of local history in our schools has created an historical and geographical vacuum. We hope, in time, our Government will right the wrongs of previous administrations by protecting the identity and integrity of our counties that are at the very fabric of our English nationhood."
His Grace couldn’t agree more. Observing the The Royal Mail have expunged the county designation from postal addresses; and noting that changes to parliamentary boundaries will take constituencies over county borders for the first time, it is high time that our ancient history was reclaimed. To the ignorant, this is as obscure and otiose as ancient sheep-grazing rights. To those who care about history, culture and identity, it goes to the heart of localism and political sovereignty.
Three cheers (once again [or twice]) for Eric Pickles. The man is doing a superlative job transforming local government: His Grace looks forward to the next Pickles whirlwind (or earth tremor). Actually (though he may not want it), there is probably not a finer man to be Party Chairman.